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Wednesday, August 12, 2015

He Was with the Wild Beasts


And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him. – Mark 1: 12 - 13

The unconquering Satan fled from him, leaving Jesus alone in the wilderness. His legs sagged beneath him and he fell to the ground, banging his knees and his shins against the sharp rocks. Blood flowed from the wounds and the wild animals who lived there smelled it and were drawn to it, to him.

First to arrive, a ghost of gnats, swarming in the dusky twilight. “Bless you, gnats,” Jesus said. “May you live upon the wind and be blown by the Spirit to places of rest.” The midges bobbed in the air and departed.

Then came feral dogs, wild, undomesticated, snarling and baring their cruel teeth, they approached. But Jesus blessed them too. “A dog’s tongue is a doctor’s tongue. Let us lick our wounds and threaten war no more.” The dogs lay down at his feet and slept.

Next a crepuscular moth, flitting here and there, alighted near him. “A blessing for you as well, little pest. Be pollinators. Be food. Be a blessing.”

A long eared fox clambered up the slope on silent hairless footpads. She yelped once and Jesus nodded to her. “Be subtle and be blessed, mother fox. Be quick and daring and be blessed.” Her ears flicked, aware of a noise, an approaching hum. She nodded her head once, twice, and then turned and fled into the darkness.

The buzzing grew louder and closer, a swarm of locusts. They clouded the air around Jesus’ face. “And how should I bless you, bringers of famine, and pestilence? How should I bless you bringers of havoc and devastation? How can I bless you? I do not know. But bless blessed nonetheless. Be blessed. And once more makes three, be blessed. Now go.” The swarm departed. The dogs at Jesus’ feet looked up and whimpered. “They are gone now,” he said to them, and they lay back down to sleep.

Now a large bodied raven swooped low, feeding on the slower locusts. The raven snatched up one with its beak, tossed it into the air and caught it in its mouth. “Karr-karr-khaharr!” it croaked.

Jesus smiled. “You are a most ambiguous creature, aren’t you? Unclean and uncouth, carrion eaters – detestable things - yet you bring comfort to the prophets. You neither sow nor reap, but God feeds you and your little ones.” Jesus held out his arm and the raven flew to him. It hopped up his arm toward his face and motioned as if to peck at Jesus’ eye, but Jesus cautioned the bird. “Be blessed, black one. Be blessed.” 

“Kara-khaharr-karr!” the raved cawed and then flew away.


Jesus gathered wood and lit a fire, for it was dark now, and cold.  He sat on a stone near the flames to warm himself.  And sitting there he saw, through the flickering flames, the glowing eyes of wolf.  “Here comes the desert prince, emblem of Benjamin. Come,” Jesus called to the wolf.  But it only snarled in response, and growled, low and threatening. Again, Jesus called to it. “Come. Sit here with me.” The wolf growled again and ran away. Jesus stoked the fire and pet the dogs still sleeping at his feet.

Moments later the wolf returned, walking slowly, hesitantly with its head low. “Come,” said Jesus, “rest here with me. You are welcome.” And the wolf lay down there with him.

A viper, drawn to the warmth of the fire, slithered out of the rocks. Jesus saw the venomous serpent and said, “You are welcomed and blessed, but you must do no evil or harm here.” Then the snake coiled itself on a stone and basked in the warmth of the fire.

A great fluttering of wings rustled overhead, and down came a large vulture with a raspy yawp. “Why should you come here, vulture?  There is no carcass, as you can see. I am not dead. Not yet. But even then why should you gather? But a blessing for you, nonetheless; eaters of carrion have their place.  Consume the corpses and keep the world clean. Be blessed.”  The vulture hopped first on one scraggy foot, then the other and then leaped into the air and flew away.

Then, out from under the rocks and sand, came a scorpion, golden in the firelight, with its venomous tail poised and claws extended. It was ready to strike and to sting. Jesus saw it and said, “Have you come to torment me? Shall I tread upon you?” The scorpion danced in the sand, waving its claws, rearing up in the firelight. “Again I ask you,” said Jesus patiently, “have you come to torment me? Even with your toxic venom you cannot kill me. Shall I stand and crush you with my heel?” The malignant scorpion repeated its threatening gestures.

It rushed toward Jesus on its eight legs, ready to pinch with its pinchers and sting with its toxic tail, but just then an angel appeared and crushed the belligerent scorpion. Jesus looked up at the angel who said, “I’ve been sent to wait on you, to minister to and care for you, but you seem to have things under control.”

Jesus smiled and motioned for the angel to join him at the fire.

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